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Mary Portas to Champion UK Manufacturing

Mary Portas: Saviour of UK manufacturing?

Mary Portas: Saviour of UK manufacturing?

Will Mary Portas be portrayed as the saviour of UK Manufacturing?

I read today that Mary Portas is to open a clothing factory in  Greater Manchester, that will be featured in a new TV series entitled Mary’s Sweatshop.
Channel 4 have invested in the disused factory, Warwick Mill in Middleton, with a view to teaching new workers manufacturing skills and then selling the products to high street multiples.
Does this fill you with the same amount of dread that it does me?
Yes I know that Mary has probably got all of the right intentions, especially as the factory is to be staffed with locals struggling to find work, but I do worry that she is jumping on a band wagon and it may do more harm than good for our manufacturing industry in the long run.

Mary’s Sweatshop – Does this name really send out the right signals?

The fact that Endomol (who brought the world Big Brother) are involved, rings alarm bells for a start. With a name like ‘Mary’s Sweatshop’ is it really going to portray the sort of image that will encourage a new generation to work in a clothing factory?

Made in Britain should be about what we do best – quality

I think that we should concentrate on what our strengths are in Britain – making great quality products for the middle to top end of the market – not churning out high volume to high street retailers in a sweat shop and sticking it on reality TV.

What do you think?

Photo: The Grocer



  1. Cass on November 2, 2011 at 11:17 am

    ‘Made in Britain’ carries gravitas, particularly on foreign markets and rightly so, if you consider the array of great manufacturers who have managed to cling on to production in this country. I agree, the name alone sounds alarm bells…

  2. Elizabeth on November 2, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks for another great newsletter – Mary Portas, bless her – is probably getting well and truly highjacked by Channel 4! As you say – I think she may have lost her way – she needs pulling back out of the mire! “Mary’s Sweatshop’ is a terrible name – it doesn’t really bring the best of images to mind, does it!! Let’s emphasise the brilliance of British Design, making and engineering through highlighting the many high quality British designers and makers out there!

  3. UPENDER MEHRA on November 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Lets nto “bless her” . . Mary Portas is bad news, not her fault, she is making her bucks any which way while she can, and if stupid TV companies want to pay a wannabe “anything-in-the-public-eye-but-good-for-nowt-tit~” to run a sweatshop then more fool the TV company! This is a great idea,. just like the other great idea, High Street shops and brands playing with the union flag and at being “oh so BRITISH” cause its cool . . . . while the cheap imports from the exploited world are sneaked in the back door . . .soon the exploited will begin to exploit and us few left prodcuing our designs will become the underground . . . Portas I despair!!

  4. Shireen on November 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    The label ‘Made in Britain’ can hide a multitude of sins. I think we need much clearer guidelines on labelling. Picaloulou products are British through and through – from the Merino & Alpaca farmed wool, the yarn spun and dyed in Cornwall, and the talented hand knitters working from home in comfort – who lavish love, care and attention on their work. It is time for retailers to come clean about the real provenance of their products!

  5. Daphne on November 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I agree with the problems that this type of programme create. The trouble is the people who will be watching are the ones who buy the cheap imports that are causing the problems.

    Also, there seems to be no mention of the impact supermarkets are having on this country. I buy British as often as possible and local when I can. Until people get back on the high street and in the local towns and small shops and purchase from smaller companies the decline will continue…. which brings us full circle to shopping cheap on the Internet and large stores that are all the same…

  6. Caroline on December 8, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Factually inaccurate piece, Katie, and you fail to back up your opinion with any research / facts. Channel 4 have not invested in Warwick Mill – it was the location for the recruitment days. The programmes is creating real, long-term employment for the inviduals involved and the town of Middleton are fully supporting Mary’s efforts to revive the British clothing manufacturing industry – after all, Middleton has a rich heritage in making clothes for the high street. It’s a campaign piece with a positive message and highlights an important social issue. How will it ‘do more harm than good’ to shed light on the demise of clothing manufacturing, create jobs and encourage the public / retailers to buy more ethically sourced goods? Please, do explain.

    For the real story, look here:


  7. Sugar Jones on March 2, 2012 at 11:41 am

    For the last ten years I have been fighting the same battle, to bring back manufacturing to the UK. The truth is we’ve come so far down the line that as a general rule people no longer understand how or where products are made. There needs to be a total, back to basics re-education.

    The demise of high street spending in the UK is down to many factors (internet buying etc) but the real heart of the problem is that we just don’t have enough home-grown manufacturing and factory work any more. Yes, factories were huge employers but more importantly they made us as a nation of amazing designers, innovators & problem solvers. If we could recreate the ability we once had to make and produce, we will create more jobs again. We will also breathe new life into our grey, drab high streets.

    I agree with Daphne. Not enough people understand the impact of huge supermarkets and that buying cheap imports is one of the factors leading to a downturn in employment in the UK. Not to mention we all end up buying what’s cheap and easy – most of which doesn’t suit or ‘fit quite right’ because of scrimping on the cutting of cloth.

    I always buy British where I can, both in business and as a consumer …but it’s certainly not easy.

    Karen Millen’s recent China Crisis regarding ‘cheap’, ‘fake’ KM goods being sold on the internet. Wake up people, where do you think the real KM stuff is made. It ain’t the UK, that’s for sure – just look at the label.

    If a factory worker thinks they can make a fast buck then there will be people willing to take the chance for goods falling out the backdoor of a factory ….and with so many willing buyers, same goods, knock down prices.

    If you do just one thing today ….pick something up, anything, something from your handbag and see where it was made. The results can be quite surprising!

  8. John Robertson t/a Veganline.com on March 9, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    I haven’t read all of the comments above but I’ve read most of them.

    I agree that it’s hard to weave Primark Basics in the UK, out of cotton, to retail at £2.50 a T shirt in a hundred high street stores.

    If there were a lot of support among customers for T shirts ordered in advance and made out of UK materials like lyocell or viscose & bought online, so that a big batch could be sent individually to each pre-paid customer from a mailroom, there might be a chance but selling the absolute cheapest T shirts from the UK to the UK is not a big part of the market.
    It’s a hard market too. I doubt the far-eastern suppliers or Primark themselves make any money on this line; I guess they hope it is a loss leader at worst or a small money-maker at best.

    I disagree that M&S can’t buy British again as they did recently. Like Primark, they sell most T shirts at £5 or £10. Their Blue Harbour T shirts start at £6 but are mainly £12. I can buy T shirts from Manchester Hosiery at £4 including VAT & delivery to an address in London, with a lot of ingenuity for a small order. At the same time more and more sales are online so the costs of shop rent, shop staff, and bitty deliveries, likw all the caboodle of retailing are dwindling.

    I think M&S can and should source their Blue Harbour range in the UK.
    Hope this makes sense

  9. Georgieworgy on March 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    I think a lot of you are missing the point, being that, if people in this country won’t and “can’t” afford to spend much on clothing then we need to bring back mass manufacturing to the UK at reasonable costs, employing a large workforce on reasonable pay and charging a reasonable amount for the finished item. It’s all well bleeting on about the craftsmanship of British ‘designers’ and specialist makers but lets be honest….average Tracey and Sharon on the high street are not going to give you £25 for a pair of knickers, no matter whether the silk was blessed by a Cornish priest or whatever other reason to charge rediculous prices. The reason ‘Designers’ are so expensive in this country is because they think their product is more exclusive because of a name and their time is more valuable than those who would happily sit in a mill on a fair wage making large amounts of the same thing because they want and need a job! Costs can be kept down if an line is made on mass and supported on mass. Is it a bad thing? Not if it means we can bring back some productivity to our country and offer some good quality choice in Normal High street shops for the masses…who at the moment are spending all their money on Primark Shit! We just sent all of our manufacturing to China because we got greedy and now we need weening off of it. Yes Mary’s knickers cost a tad more than what the majority of us would spend but they make the average Tracy & Sharon feel like they belong to something (even if it is just because they saw them on the telly) so they will treat themselves to a pair and in the process will support the return of UK jobs (This has already been proven by the fact that they are sold out and people are lining up to buy them) Lets give Mary some credit because she’s the only one stepping up and putting her rep’ on the line!

    • Chris on April 8, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Well done to Mary Portas, if it was not for Mary to shout about bringing manufactering back to the Uk we will never get out of the problem we are in at the moment. Who else would have showed us were we have gone wrong as a country.
      I worked for a company who made lingerie for M&S.Before being closed down.
      The other thing that is killing the our High street, is shopping on line. i wanted to buy a pair of kinky knickers (to help keep the jobs going) from Boots, the only way i could buy them was to order on line, my local boots don’t sell them. I don’t like to buy anything on line because i want to keep the High Street going.

      Well done Mary Portas, I support you.

  10. […] her products in Scotland Glasgow makes her a pioneer in these times. This actually reminded me of Mary Portas’s Champion for UK Manufacturing on a recent tv show, also by her was Mary’s Bottom Line  where she tried to raise the […]

  11. gertrud persson on February 15, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I like that you do Mary

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